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Today's the day the British burned Buffalo

Today is the 197th anniversary of the British army setting Buffalo ablaze.

It happened on Dec. 30, 1813, as the War of 1812 continued.

To brush up on your history, check out a piece by R. Arthur Bowler, associate professor emeritus at the University of Buffalo, who wrote a book "Niagara Land: The First 200 Years."

Read the essay, "The Burning of Buffalo," here.

--Aaron Besecker

Buffalo Tracks -- Dec. 30

In a world where things are a Google search away, people and places with local ties pop up on many corners of the Internet.

People who used to live in the Buffalo area, as well as others who still call this place home, have a habit of making news elsewhere.

On an occasional basis, Buffalo News Live will highlight these Buffalonians, whether they're gone or they're still here. Here's the latest edition of Buffalo Tracks:

Imgres

A former Buffalo resident has two of her own culinary businesses in Vero Beach, Fla. Adrienne Drew owns The Gourmet Sandwich Shop and a catering outfit, according to TCPalm.com.

Www.oregonlive
A Buffalo native recently became the curator of photography at the Portland Art Museum. Julia Dolan told The Oregonian she fell in love with photographs at age 8 after receiving a book from her father.

Inside Bay Area
A former Buffalo resident working as a police officer in California is working to help children who suffer from a rare birth condition. Officer Shane Nelson with the San Leandro Police Department ran the New York City marathon and has held charity hockey games to support the effort, according to The Oakland Tribune.

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Eleanor "Paris" Papp left Buffalo in 1996 with a dream to become a singer in Las Vegas. A reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently caught up with her.

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A Buffalo native in charge of a Texas museum is looking creating a botanical gardens. Howard Taylor has been director of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts since 1985.

You can check out previous editions of Buffalo Tracks here.

If you know of former Western New Yorkers making news elsewhere, send me an e-mail at [email protected].

--Aaron Besecker

Morning Roundup: Wednesday, Dec. 29

Good morning.

The high temperature will hover around freezing today, but temperatures are forecast to climb into the 50s by New Year's Day, according to the National Weather Service.

If you're heading to Buffalo's ball drop on New Year's Eve, expect a low of about 41 degrees with a chance of showers after 1 a.m. 

Here's a look at a few of the latest headlines:

- The World Junior Hockey Championship tournament continues today at HSBC Arena with Germany taking on Finland and Canada facing Norway.

Fans who attended Tuesday's games at the arena got sticker shock when they arrived to find parking prices as high as $60. A frontpage story by News Staff Reporter Gene Warner explains "Economics 101" surrounding the tournament.

Parking prices weren't the only headache hockey fans endured Tuesday. Canadians heading to HSBC Arena to watch Team Canada found wait times as long as two hours at the three international bridges, writes News Staff Reporter Jay Rey.

- Developer Rocco Termini warned Tuesday of a "real estate tsunami" if HSBC Bank USA leaves the city's tallest building when its lease expires in October 2013, News Staff Reporter Mark Sommer reports.

- One of two investors hoping to re-open the Statler Towers has withdrawn from the the partnership because of the length of time the effort was taking to finalize, News Business Reporter Jonathan D. Epstein reports.

For more on what's happening today, visit Good Morning, Buffalo.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Long delays to enter U.S. on Peace Bridge, Lewiston-Queenston span

BUFFALO -- Wait times to cross the Peace Bridge from Canada into the United States have reached nearly two hours at times this afternoon.

The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority reported a wait of 1 hour, 55 minutes for cars heading into the United States on the Peace Bridge at 3:40 p.m.

Wait times at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge entering the United States were 1 hour, 10 minutes at 3:40 p.m. The delay at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls was 25 minutes.

Traffic picked up steadily ahead of the 4 p.m. start of the World Juniors match-up between Canada and the Czech Republic at HSBC Arena.

The authority reported no delays heading into Canada, but that is likely to change later this evening when the Canadian game wraps up. 

--Denise Jewell Gee

The Tailgate Report: Sunday, Dec. 26

4:10 p.m. ORCHARD PARK -- A losing season for the Buffalo Bills put a damper on business for some street vendors outside Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"This year has been slower than past years, absolutely," said Kelly Cerrone, who has been setting up shop on Abbott Road for 20 years. "The fact that they weren't able to sell out in the season the way they've been playing, unfortunately, has affected us."

Cerrone, of Buffalo, estimated that the dour season has impacted half of his sales at home games.

Vendors on Abbott Road today pushed discounts on sweatshirts, hats and other items as they sought to unload merchandise during the last home game of the season.

Jerry Smith, of Batavia, turned to selling Sabres sweatshirts for $10 each after selling out of his Buffalo Bills gear.

"Actually, today was good," Smith said. "We've got to do a lot of talking, do a lot of moving to keep our bodies warm."

Other vendors reporting having a strong year, despite the difficulty selling out home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Forrest Viola, of Fairport, said sales can hinge on who the Bills are playing and the weather. The season brought a mix of "bad games," where merchandise just didn't move, and "good games," where sales were high, Viola and his co-workers said. 

"Weather has a big factor on it," said Viola, who works the vending scene as a side job. "If it's rainy and cold, no one comes. If it's just cold, you get a good crowd."

Hear more from vendors outside The Ralph in this video: 

***

1:05 p.m. ORCHARD PARK -- Season ticket holders tailgating in Parking Lot 5B today are rounding out the season's final home game with an eye toward 2011.

"It's not a rough year; it's a building year," said Matt Casacci, of Orchard Park. "We've got another couple years. We're going to the top. It starts with one year."

Casacci shrugged off the team's 4-10 record as he huddled around a fire pit on top of a layer of snow this afternoon.

"There's no giving up," Casacci said.

Nick Gillette, a machinist from Orchard Park, agreed.

"The fans that are all about the draft pick, that's the problem," said Gillette, who has had seasons tickets for seven years. "We're here to win, and we're here to be Bills fans."

No matter how frigid the wind chill -- or how bad the season -- fans like Gillette aren't giving up hope.

"I really think they've finished the season strong," said Chuck Mallia, a Williamsville resident who has been tailgating with his brother-in-law, Art Weigand, for years. "And I think they've got a strong possibility of winning today."

***

11:20 a.m. ORCHARD PARK -- Adam Rivers and nine of his friends from western Massachusetts made the trek to Ralph Wilson Stadium last night to cheer on the New England Patriots for one simple reason.

"It's cheaper for us to be here today and sit in the fifth row then it is to go sit in the last row in New England," said Rivers, a disc jockey from Chicopee, Mass.

So Rivers and his friends climbed in two trucks last night and made the seven-hour overnight trip to arrive in Orchard Park just as the parking lots opened at 8 a.m.

They're not alone on this final 2010 home game for the Buffalo Bills. A sea of blue and red in Parking Lot 5B includes a fair number of Patriots fans. Bills fans clearly outnumber New England supporters, but there is a Patriots presence here at the lot.

For 22-year-old Rivers, who describes himself as a "Patriots fan since birth," it was clearly about economics and the chance to see the Patriots in an opposing stadium. It doesn't hurt that his team is on a 14-game winning streak against the Bills.

He estimated that tickets in the last row at Gillette Stadium in New England would cost more than double than what he paid for his tickets in Orchard Park.

"In between gas, tolls, parking, driving out here, it's still cheaper for us to go here," Rivers said.

Matt Jolie, a Pats fan from Marlborough, Mass., drove in last night for a three-day weekend in Western New York with his girlfriend, Stacey Stanovich. The pair try to attend at least one Bills-Patriots game every year, and plan to visit Niagara Falls and Buffalo while they're in the region.

"It's a lot cheaper," Jolie said. "We can make a weekend out of what I can make for one game out there." 

Rivers said he expected a bit of good-natured heckling from Bills fans. Every few minutes, the group elicited a few boos from other game goers. 

"That's right," one man dressed in Bills gear shouted as he drove by Rivers in an SUV. "Get out of the way for the Bills fans."

***

9:20 a.m. ORCHARD PARK -- The air is crisp. The parking lot fires are burning, and Bills fans are preparing for the final home game of the season.

We're live at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where traffic is starting to pick up and the 21-degree temperature is about as warm as it's going to get today.

If you're heading to the game, prepare for wind chills that will make the air feel like it's in the single digits. The National Weather Service has issued a short-term forecast for the region that calls for scattered flurries and light snow showers this morning.

See what News Sports Reporters Allen Wilson, Mark Gaughan and Jerry Sullivan had to say about the game this week in Week 16 Preview: Patriots at Bills:

For full pre-game coverage, check out The News' Bills & NFL page, where Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan writes about Tom Brady and News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan explores what the future holds for the team's 11 free agents.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m. on Channel 4. 

--Denise Jewell Gee

Video: Shoppers Make Last-Minute Push on Christmas Eve

AMHERST -- With time for Christmas shopping nearly gone, some shoppers headed out this morning for last-minute items.

Check out what some who came out to a Niagara Falls Boulevard plaza had to say:

--Aaron Besecker

Your guide to a low-cost New Year's Eve

HARD ROCK CAFE

City of Niagara Falls welders Jeff Kimball, left, and Romeo Scrivano prepare a 10-foot-tall fiberglass guitar that was dropped last year during an outdoor New Year's Eve party outside the Hard Rock Cafe. The event will be held again this year. (Buffalo News file photo)

The annual ball drop is on in Buffalo. Niagara Falls will plunge an oversized guitar 120 feet. The Barenaked Ladies will broadcast live from Niagara Falls, Ont.

There is plenty of free or low-cost entertainment to welcome in the new year.

If you're looking for outdoor crowds, free entertainment or family-friendly events, we've got you covered. Here's a look at a few of the public events planned to welcome in the new year. Events are free unless noted. 

BUFFALO 

Ball Drop: The 23rd annual ball drop at the Iskalo Electric Tower will kick off with live music and entertainment starting at 10:30 p.m. and will lead up to a midnight ball drop and fireworks display. The event will start with quizmaster Dennis George warming up the crowd at Roosevelt Plaza at Main and Huron streets. Local band "More Than Me" will headline the stage performances. 

First Night Buffalo: The city's drug- and alcohol-free celebration will offer a lineup of kid-friendly activities, including laser tag, skating and games, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The lineup of entertainers includes Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics, Skyhunters Birds of Prey, Comedy Hypnotist The Incredible Boris and In Jest Comedy and Juggling featuring Nels Ross. Tickets, which include rides and activities, are $8 in advance at Wegmans, $10 at the door and free for children 2 and under.

First Night Parking: Free parking will be available at Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps at Main Place Mall, Fernbach Ramp and Turner Ramp.

Transportation: The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority will extend Metro Rail service past midnight on New Year's Eve. The last outbound train will leave downtown Buffalo at 2 a.m. 

NIAGARA FALLS 

Guitar Drop: Smash Mouth will headline a free outdoor street party on Old Falls Street outside the Hard Rock Cafe that will lead up to the dropping of a 10-foot replica of a Gibson guitar at midnight. The all-ages event will start at 8 p.m. and will include live music, heated tents, concessions and fireworks.  

The United Way of Greater Niagara will offer free family activities from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Old Falls Street. 

NIAGARA FALLS, ONT.

Concert by the Falls: Free outdoor party in Queen Victoria Park will include two fireworks displays over the falls and live music by Great Big Sea and Barenaked Ladies. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. with fireworks at 9 p.m. and midnight. 

NORTH TONAWANDA

Gateway Harbor: Community event, "New Year's on the Canal, Gateway Harbor," features a lighted ball drop at midnight at the corner of Webster and Sweeney streets, followed by a fireworks display over the canal. The Eric Spahr Band will perform in a heated tent on Sweeney Street from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Alcohol-free children's events will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at St. Francis of Assissi in Tonawanda and Rainbow Roller Rink in North Tonawanda. Tickets for the Kids Fun Zones are $5 in advance or $6 the day of the event.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Falls airport to end free parking for travelers

AIRLINE
Passengers wait at the baggage check area at Niagara Falls International Airport last week. The airport will end free parking for travelers next month. (Charles Lewis/Buffalo News)

WHEATFIELD -- The Niagara Falls International Airport will stop offering free parking for travelers next month.

Parking at the airport will cost $5 a day or $25 per week starting Jan. 1.

The new policy takes effect as business at the airport's new $40 million airport terminal picks up.

"I don't know of any airport where you can park at the front door for free," said C. Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. "We think it's customary. The fee is nominal, and it's certainly meant to generate some revenue for the airport."

Vision Airlines started offering flights to Niagara Falls last week, with twice-a-week flights planned to Northwest Florida Regional Airport and Miami International Airport.

Spirit Airlines, a south Florida-based carrier, has announced plans to begin offering service to Fort Lauderdale in January, as well as seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The airport will continue to offer free parking in a designated area for up to two hours for drivers who are picking up or dropping off travelers, Hartmayer said.

The airport has two 250-space lots and is preparing to open a third overflow lot with more than 600 spaces across the street, Hartmayer said. 

Related: New airline begins serving Falls International 
             NFTA board narrows choice for executive director to two

--Denise Jewell Gee

Ski resorts ramp up for holiday week with help of colder-than-normal temperatures

Snowmaker
Corey Hickey adjusts the snow making machines at Kissing Bridge in Glenwood on Dec. 9. (Harry Scull Jr./ Buffalo News)

Colder-than-normal temperatures and lake-effect snow have helped open more trails at area ski resorts in time for the holiday week.

"The weather has been our friend," said Jane Eshbaugh, marketing director at Holiday Valley.

Holiday Valley has 40 slopes open now and plans to open all of its 58 slopes by Sunday.

The Ellicottville resort has reported 84 inches of natural snow so far this year and has been making snow since late November.

Temperatures that have remained below freezing have helped preserve the natural snow and enabled the resort to add to the base, Eshbaugh said.

"We have been making snow all along as weather permits," Eshbaugh said. "We've got a lot of snow out on the slopes. We're reporting an average base of 12 to 42 inches, but there are spots of many, many feet of snow."

Kissing Bridge in Glenwood reports having nine slopes open in its central area with three to four lifts operating. The resort reports 15 to 19 inches of depth and continues to make snow to open additional runs, according to its website. 

Temperatures expected to remain below freezing through the end of the week will also help keep a blanket of snow on the ground for Christmas.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for high temperatures to remain in the mid 20s in the Buffalo area through Saturday. December, so far, has seen above-average snowfall and colder-than-normal temperatures in the region.

Related: The stage is set for winter 

--Denise Jewell Gee

Tim Hortons opens at Seneca Niagara Casino

NIAGARA FALLS -- Fast food has arrived at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.

A co-branded Tim Hortons and Cold Stone Creamery will open today at the casino. The restaurant, which is the casino's first fast food chain, adds to a lineup of restaurants that includes a steakhouse, a sushi bar, an Italian restaurant and a buffet.

Seneca Gaming executives will gather at the casino at 10:30 a.m. to mark to toast the occasion -- with hot coffee.

Related: Senecas revise plan for casino downtown

--Denise Jewell Gee

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